ESA’s Cryosat-2 Faces Delay due to Launch Range Issues

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OTTOBRUN, Germany — Europe’s Cryosat-2 polar-ice-observation satellite will not be launched until late February at the earliest, about three months later than planned, because of delays at the Baikonur Cosmodrome that have affected the schedule of the Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket, Cryosat-2 managers said Sept. 14.

At briefings here at the satellite test facilities of IABG Space Center in Ottobrunn, Germany, Cryosat-2 officials said the construction and testing of the satellite itself, under a contract valued at 75 million euros ($109 million) with Astrium Satellites, is finished.

Cryosat-2 will be placed into storage before being shipped to the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan once a launch date has been confirmed by the Russian space agency, Roskosmos.

Richard Francis, Cryosat project manager at the European Space Agency (ESA), said a Dnepr rocket has been reserved for the launch of Germany’s TanDem-X radar Earth observation satellite, and that TanDem-X’s launch has slipped from October to late December.

Francis said the Baikonur facility is facing a logjam of missions in the coming months, including a planned Russian government Mars mission, a launch of Russian Glonass navigation satellites and a mission to the international space station. Because of that, he said, CryoSat-2 will not be fitted into the Dnepr manifest until late February.

The 720-kilogram Cryosat-2 is a better-equipped remake of the original Cryosat satellite, which was lost in October 2005 following the failure of the second stage of its Russian Rokot launch vehicle. The satellite and its upper stage fell into the Lincoln Sea near the North Pole.

ESA agreed to rebuild Cryosat, its member governments concluding that measuring the polar ice sheets — both their size and thickness — remained a valid mission to improve climate specialists’ understanding of global warming. Cryosat-2’s total mission cost — satellite construction and launch and three years of operations — is 140 million euros, Francis said.

Unlike the original model, Cryosat-2 features two identical Siral radar altimeters built by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy. The second will be used only in the event of a failure of the primary Siral.

Cryosat-2 has been financed for three years of operations but its fuel tanks and battery system have been designed to permit operations for five years.